PFIC 2016: The Conference that Launched a new Discipline with E3

There are many conferences in the digital forensics world that examiners can attend to learn new skills or hone their skills, meet with colleagues and like-minded professionals, and have a good time. However, no other conference incorporates all of those elements into one package better than PFIC, Paraben Corporation’s Forensic Innovation Conference.

This year’s conference was held in Albany, NY at The Desmond Hotel and opened with an out-of-the-box keynote speech by Clint Emerson, a retired Navy Seal and New York Times bestselling author of 100 Deadly Skills. Emerson offered specialized teachings on new techniques to get the audience thinking about safety and survival. Emerson, whose book has been so well-received that a second edition is coming out this October, was a crowd favorite and set the tone for the remainder of the conference. “It is the only keynote where you’ll learn how to break out of duct tape bonds, a skill that is always useful to know, even with us geeks,” explained Amber Schroader, PFIC Conference Chair and Paraben Corporation co-founder.

PFIC is the only forensic conference that is designed specifically to allow attendees the opportunity to attend 100% of all labs and lectures offered at the event. No more must the attendee pay to attend a conference where they then must pick and choose which lectures and labs to attend.


Keynote speaker Clint Emerson and PFIC attendees


“PFIC is crafted to give every attendee the chance to learn about everything that’s being offered, if they want to. I love it, it removes all the pressure of having to choose, I get to see everything that I want and get both lectures and labs,” commented Cassie Castrejon, a digital forensics examiner and a repeat attendee to PFIC.

A wide range of topics was offered at the conference this year. Attendees were able to learn about new searching techniques, Bitcoin mechanics, iOS forensics, and even gathering evidence in the Dark Net. Sponsors of the conference also threw their hats into the ring to teach attendees the newest techniques they have been working on and showcase their software. One sponsor and conference lecturer, Jeff Shackelford, a multi-year presenter with OSForensics <> said, “The group of people that you draw to your [Paraben’s] events are always incredibly polite, knowledgeable, and most importantly, are focused on learning.”

When looking at the labs that were offered at PFIC this year, the content was timely and relevant. The day began with smartphone forensics, moved on to network forensics and then forensic Python scripting before concluding with a second smartphone class where investigators were able to learn effective ways to conduct a two-step verification process on mobile forensic images. Several hands-on lab sessions gave attendees an opportunity to put their newly acquired information and skills to the test.

“Everyone was a winner with the labs and got one-on-one time with the instructors. PFIC keeps the instruction close and intimate so you really get to know who you are teaching,” stated Hal Harris with BlackBag Technologies <>.

The non-profit organization Python Forensics, Inc. <> headed by Chet Hosmer, another multi-year presenter, got people excited about forensic Python scripting and incorporating Python into their examination process, which has now become an essential skill for all digital examiners to learn.

All of the focused learning from the lectures and labs was balanced out with Casino Night, the after-hours party that provided attendees the opportunity to unwind while playing casino games and networking with fellow attendees. Attendees were also given the opportunity to compete and win various prizes donated by PFIC’s generous sponsors. This was the first year that one of the attendees broke the bank with over one million dollars in winnings. “Nothing is better than being able to sit in a class with an expert in the field, learning something new and then being able to sit down next to them, laughing and engaging in friendly competition card tables. Everyone enjoys relaxing and furthering the relationships they make at PFIC,” said Shannon Gomez of Paraben Corporation, who was in charge of the social activities at the conference this year.


PFIC attendees enjoy Casino Night

Overall, the event found the perfect balance of content and technology with sponsors such as OSForensics, BlackBag Technologies, Atola, HTCI, SANS, WetStone Technologies, SysTools, and Sumuri participating and showcasing their latest offerings and debuting upcoming products. During the conference, Paraben Corporation launched their new E3 forensic platform (Electronic Evidence Examiner). The red carpet event, which was captured on social media with pictures from the attendees, promoted the tool and its new approach to acquiring, analyzing, and reporting on all types of data from computer, smartphone, and IoT (Internet of Things) devices. E3 is the first tool to really tackle all three areas in a single, unifying interface.

“We always try to showcase something new to our PFIC attendees and this year we rolled out the red carpet to give them a sneak peek of the work that has been put into E3. It is our new tool that will be released on October 31. E3 was designed by investigators for investigators and allows forensic examiners to process and analyze all of the different types of digital evidence through one interface," stated Amber Schroader, the President & CEO of Paraben Corporation. As the prevalence of IoT grows, having one tool that can do it all will be the key to successful and thorough device examinations.

There are many things that attendees can gain from attending a forensic conference, but not all conferences allow for the attendees to absorb all knowledge and participate in all hands-on activities quite like PFIC. From sharing and learning new information and examination techniques to the exposure to new and exciting technology along with building new relationships, PFIC offers it all. You really can get everything you hope for from this small, but mighty event. PFIC 2017 has not yet been announced, but the feedback is coming in from everyone that the 10th year of the conference will be a must attend event.

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